What I wish I’d known….
1. Get to know your professors. Take the time and effort to really get to know your professors while at college. Your professors can be incredibly helpful in job hunting, career advice, and even navigating the university system. Professors make great references for jobs. If you decide to pursue a graduate school program later on, you will need references from your professors. If they don’t know who you are, it is difficult to get a good reference letter. Your professors should be a part of the network you are creating while at college. They have a lot to contribute to your professional life…today and tomorrow. Don’t be intimidated by profs. Most are more than happy to get to know, and to help, a good student who takes the time to get to know them.
2. Study abroad. There is no better time in your life to have the opportunity to travel and learn a new culture. Don’t be intimidated by the language; English is the world language and you will get by (better yet, study a language while at school…we all regret that we didn’t!). Don’t assume it is too expensive or you don’t have the time. Look into the options your university offers to travel or study abroad. It may not be as expensive or difficult as you think. The experience will be life-changing…and a differentiator on your resume.
3. Take advantage of every opportunity you can. Most colleges and universities offer programs, classes, clubs, speakers, events, activities that let you try new things or learn about new subjects. This is the best time for you to push yourself and explore and try things. Is there a great keynote speaker coming to campus? Then go to the presentation. Is there a panel of women executives talking about what you need to succeed? Attend. Have you always wanted to learn fencing? Or horseback riding, or sky diving, etc. Check and see if the activity you are interested in is offered. The more you do while a student, the more you will get out of your university experience and the more you will have to talk about on your resume or in an interview. Your activities and interests in school not only help you learn and develop skills and interests, they also help differentiate you from everyone else who is job hunting or applying to graduate school. So, turn off the reality TV shows and do what you came to college to do, learn.
4. Have lots of fun. The time you are in college is supposed to be fun. Make friends. Go to parties. Get involved. Fall in love. Enjoy everything about it, but don’t forget to study, too!
Denise Schoenbachler is Dean of the College of Business at Northern Illinois University. This is the sixth and final post from participants in a panel discussion at NIU featuring six successful women graduates.